Vladimir Romanov gives interview in submarine as former Hearts owner claims he wanted to buy Liverpool and sell Steven Gerrard to Chelsea for £120m
Former Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov insists he could have made the Tynecastle side one of the world's best clubs after the Lithuanian fugitive broke his silence in a bizarre interview inside his own personal K-19 nuclear submarine on which he used to serve during his days as a member of the Soviet Union's navy.
Romanov was the controversial owner of Hearts from 2005 until 2013, when his leadership plunged the club into administration.
The 72-year-old is still wanted by Lithuanian authorities for allegations of fraud, embezzlement and money laundering and was wanted by Interpol, but took refuge outside Moscow and is now a Russian citizen.
And after years of silence, Romanov has revealed that he believed he was on the brink of making Hearts a superpower in Scottish football and in Europe.
Romanov said: "Hearts' largest annual budget was only £10 million. But we sold players for £7-10 million. I actually made a profit!
"No one could believe it. I broke the system and it didn't hurt the results on the pitch.
"We won the Scottish Cup, took second place in the league and then I started putting young players on the pitch. Over 90 per cent of the line-up was from the club's academy.
"There wasn't a team in the world like us who could boast about producing our own players and still making a profit. We would have been a real force if we had kept going.
"I had young players from all over Scotland begging to play for me - they dreamed of it. And it's because they knew I would have played them.
"When I was in charge of Hearts, we had a budget that was ten times lower than Celtic and Rangers and I still beat them.
"In fact, I even managed to beat Rangers when I was at Kaunas in Europe. What I loved about Scotland was that it just wasn't football...it was war."
'We even drew up a preliminary contract'
Romanov also revealed he came close to buying current European champions and English champions-elect Liverpool when he was Hearts owner and had his own plans for future Rangers boss Steven Gerrard.
He recalled: "We played Liverpool when I was at Kaunas and we were a goal up. I agreed a deal with David Moores, who was their chairman, to buy them for £200 million.
"At the time, my budget at Hearts was tiny as I said, but we even drew up a preliminary contract. Unfortunately my financial partner Oleg Deripaska wouldn't agree to releasing the funds for it.
"But I told him we would have got £120 million back straight away by selling Steven Gerrard to Roman Abramovich at Chelsea. He would have paid that.
"They ended up selling Liverpool for £600 million to the Americans. It's the biggest regret in my business life."
'My new project is poetry'
Romanov revealed he now has a new project in his life and refuses to believe he's broken any laws.
He pointed out: "The Lithuanians turned to Interpol, but Russia refused to extradite me and I was granted refugee status and more recently, citizenship.
"I feel cheated about what happened. If I had been beaten by another entrepreneur, I could have accepted it, but the state did it. They robbed me.
"Once, I had £1 billion including loans and assets. Now I don't even get a pension here. A beautiful future awaits me.
"My new project is writing poetry to myself. I created a whole poem about the history of Lithuania. I'm excited about it."